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          A time there was when animals and birds of earth lived a gregarious and community harmony. They spoke and interacted, guided by ethical codes to which they scrupulously adhered. Anyone who broke the code was arraigned and brought before their court, judged and ruthlessly sanctioned.

             A persistent problem was that of water in the dry seasons. They dug a huge well, a reservoir for clean water in the dry season. But nature always found ways of hitching higher the challenges it prepared for higher species. So, when the season of draught was at its peak, a dreadful thing happened and the gregarious folk almost died of thirst from want of potable water.

              Snake had managed to harvest some sweet-bitter-leaves, and was washing them upstream to prepare ‘ndole’. When Fly smelt the delicious aroma of the vegetable, she flew to Snake.

            “What are you washing?” Asked Fly to Snake.

“Don’t you have eyes to see that I’m washing bitter-leaves?” Snake retorted perhaps to rebuff with a rhetorical jab.

“Let me have a taste,” Fly pleaded, never known for shame or fancy.

“It’s not much, but you can taste this.” Snake gave a bit of the vegetable to Fly which she tasted and found its tangy taste wholesomely welcome.

“Let me have more”! Pleaded Fly; “it’s spicy and tasty by itself!”

            Once more, Snake gave her a bit of his sweet bitter leaves. Just then another fly came, then another, and yet another. Soon the place was all flies, buzzing in their impetuous beggarliness around the snake:

            “Give me some bitter-leaves. Give me some bitter-leaves…”

            Snake got embittered but helpless as this unwelcome importunity raided his ambience and somehow frightened him. He thought of what to do. The assailants thronged his long slender body, ungratefully harassing him. They could finish his bitter leaves, for their own confrontational begging seemed to warrant them helping themselves to it unbidden. So, gathering what was left of the vegetable, Snake wriggled away at a terrible speed. The flies were already hell-bent on each having their share. So they gave chase.

            Berserk and too enraged to sift its own choices, Snake slipped into the hole of a mole. The intrusion woke the sleeping mole to a scampering fright. He shot out through his secret exit at a speed that hoped to cheat death, red earth on his head.  An antelope was grazing quietly in a nearby groove when the mole with red earth on his heard rushed by.

            “A mole doesn’t run in the day with red earth on his head;” thought the animal. “There must be a hunter behind him!” Thought and conviction shot the antelope to a rush through the forest from feared death claws and hoped dear life. But whether toggled by the double offers of life and death or baffled by its own speed, the antelope crashed against a long spiral rope that descended from a low-bending tree on which a monkey had been munching stolen peanuts. That shocked the monkey out of its narrow peanut comfort to turn her deep eyes in the direction of the fear-crazed antelope that galloped away without bothering to apologize or have the courtesy to wave. Monkey quickly decided in a save-my-skin wisdom that there was danger around. She bounced from branch to branch with such agitated chattering that the whole forest swayed in echo. The leafy branches swished with a hum and swung up as she flung herself from one tree branch to another.  In one of her great leaps, she clutched a long dried branch that was waiting even for a mild wind to push it over and down. With the branch, she descended like a missile.

  A calm elephant received the hard double strike on its rump, which was enough for the usually unshakable fellow to take a spin round in heavily jotted terror. Who dared strike him such a blow must dine with the gods in monstrous strength, the colossal fellow decided. Between fight and flight, he chose what to him was the surer bet; a rampaging, earth-rocking rumble of a run.  He ran without turning to looking back at the monster of a danger. The earth shook with the quivering terror of a seismic tremor.

Monkey’s gestures and screams scared a brood of partridges in the forest that went wild too. They filled the low skies with panicky flapping and screeching, terror-struck and further confusing the guttering run of the elephant and making it completely lose any sense of direction. It went rolling along like a large boulder, blinded by the shade of leaves parachuting in all directions, clouds of dust rising to his hoof plunges. No beast in the precincts was left unshaken by the pandemonium. They all clattered off, feeling the tremor caused by the elephant, which rippled with the other animals dashing away. The animal kingdom was in such confusion that even Tortoise the wise, forgot to hide in his shell and instead started running only to get entangled in a web of thickly woven forest cords. Predators like lions and wolves sped away at break-neck pace from animals they would instinctively chase at a rush, not wishing to become prey to the monster they feared was amok; while the eagles shot higher into the clouds.

 The elephant ran until, befuddled by the imagined world-shaker at his heels, he doubled up and plunged into the great water reservoir, causing it to reek of filth and mess that he had bulldozed in the forest down to its quiet bottom. His gigantic splash in the reservoir stirred the most pungent dregs of rot, sloshing even the dung on her nasty arse-hole into the well. This reservoir, which was the only source of the over-stretched dry season drinkable water for the animals, became a murky scum of churned cesspool. Not even the rotten carven of the hyena’s guts could take in this jumble of chemicalised sludgy muck. Several days of thirst in extreme followed the beasts.

Eventually, the elephant was court-martialled to answer for his crime. He had been calm when the monkey broke a branch and they both slammed an unearthly knock on his rump, he said. He thought gods and monsters were in for a showdown on who would kill him. Frightened, he accidentally crashed into the reservoir which dug up its worst from its floor and deprived the animals of potable water for many days.

            Called forward and first warned against her dirty tricks, the monkey was given room to explain why she had done such harm to the elephant. The monkey recounted how she had been munching some nuts, whose suggestive aroma transfixed her concentration, when the racing antelope stumbled against the tree and virtually knocked her off to scamper for dear life and swing from branch to branch. In her torpedoed shots, she landed on a dry branch which gave way and chuted them both onto the rump of the elephant. For his size, instead of facing aggression, the elephant disgraced its might and quantity by a destructive rampage to plunge into the reservoir, depriving the animals of water for so many days.

            The antelope humbly stepped forward and was deeply apologetic, particularly as the mixed ravaging savagery of Lion’s glare was fixed on him. HH He had been grazing calmly in the fields when the mole came running with red earth on his head: “Knowing that the mole does not run with red earth on his head in the day, I knew death and demons had broken hell bounds. I had to run for what to the lions is daily bread but for me my own dear life. As fortunes shuffle and nature fumbles, I crashed against a long spiral rope that hung from a tree on which sat this monkey. He left reason behind and took up fright with which he went bouncing from branch to branch, landing on a dry branch which, being dead, gave way and both chuted down and slammed a vicious blow on the elephant’s thick rump. Instead of using its egregious mass to confront the unprovoked assailant, the elephant behaved like a frightened mouse that would dash into its dark hole at the sight of an imaginary cat’s outline. The elephant blared! But I don’t think any of us here can tell apart the elephant’s triumphant trumpeting from a frightened howl.  Well, he ran away like any coward and see where we are today– mucked up.”

By now, the animal judges were used to the rhythm, but the justice system required a thorough hearing from all involved. They saw through the unnatural blames and barely concealed insults the accused were thrusting at each other. These balanced their strengths and weaknesses.

            The mole was called forward and he narrated how he had been sleeping when Snake with a bunch of bitter-leaves surprised him out of his hole. Snake hadn’t had the least courtesy to whistle a knock. It had discourteously, lacking all manner of home manners, slipped in at break-neck speed so he too had simply taken the relay and shot out through his secret exit. That was how he came by some red earth stuck on his head, which as he ran, startled the antelope.  The antelope, instead of steadying to ask him, quickened into a race to crash against the long spiral rope. This shook the lazy monkey whose dirty tricks are well known to all. He had been munching stolen nuts and rather than looking up to understand the drama first, started bouncing from branch to branch. Sadly, he broke the dry stump and chuted down the nasty crupper of that mountain of an animal, Elephant, whose size announces stability but whose consequent behaviour proved the contrary and landed his ungraceful enormity and all into our reservoir. “See what has happened to us all because of his behavior,” the mole concluded.

            In the same manner as the other animals, Snake imputed the blame on Fly whom he said had asked for a bit of his bitter-leaves, and invited her entire tribe of ingrates to invade his privacy, buzzing around in assailant swoops of uncompromising beggarliness. He had decided to leave them to their shameful act and take away what was still left. “I couldn’t think of a safer place than the mole’s hole,” Snake said. “So I dashed in and the frightened mole, instead of giving me welcome security, dashed out through the exit on the other end of his tunnel, the most cowardly skunk of an animal, red earth on his forehead. This frightened the not unusually jittery antelope and made him with rigorous shivers gallop through the forest, crashing against a spiral rope which shook the trickster from his groundnut munching.

“Monkey, you had the leisure to look up to see the terrorized antelope and help, but no! You went bouncing from branch to branch, hiding your jitters in schemes of ruse and finally, with a dry branch in hand, you dared the elephant by slamming a vicious blow on his unwieldy buttocks, which I’ve never heard described as sexy. Elephant, all your legendary prowess which even the blindest animal can read in your size forsook you! You didn’t dare, you of all the beastly egregious mammals misused your size and strength by plunging and stirring up the scum of nastiest mud, mire and ooze ever. See what has come on us all now!” Snake’s rhetorical question was meant to cast a sneering smear at the mighty elephant.

 The issue now rested on the flies’ heads but they only flipped and buzzed when called forward. Night was falling by now, so the matter was adjourned to the following day at sunrise. Meanwhile, all the flies were arrested and put under the detention of Cock.  Cock jailed them in his jowls and went to sleep. When it was 03:00 a.m., Cock who had totally forgotten his assignment, attempted to crow and a few flies escaped. Cock’s will and mind quarreled over the hierarchy of his duties: was it to mark the hours or to keep the flies in? He wondered. An hour passed without him coming to a definite decision. At 04:00 a.m. he made the second attempt and more flies escaped.

At 05:00 a.m. the urge to crow became irresistible, so Cock shot his eyes and swallowed what was left of the flies in his mouth with a thunderous gulp. He then flapped his wings and crowed loud and long, the past restraints imposed by the flies firing him to now bellow a crow as he had never done before, to the satisfaction of the hens that were beginning to wonder what had happened to boastful crows of their darling cock.

            At sunrise the animals reassembled for the session to resume, but could Cock produce the flies? Cock shook his head, managed to explain that some flies escaped as he tried to crow. A delayed while after, he owned that he had swallowed the rest and blamed the animals for giving him the flies when they knew he had the natural call of duty to crow to wake them up.

            Story Continues …

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